tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 7, 2010 8:30am-9:00am EDT
tavis: good evening from los angeles. while the internet age continues to make us more connected, there is new evidence that suggests a are hyper connectivity could be harmful. we explore the down side in his latest text. also, a unique trio from north carolina. they have earned wide acclaim for their new take on music. we are glad you joined us. nicholas car and the carolina chocolate drops, coming up. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james.
>> you help us all live better. >> nationwide supports tavis smiley. nationwide insurance is proud to join chavis in removing obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- tavis: nicolas carr is a best- selling author. his latest vote is called "the shallows -- his latest book is called "the shallows." let me start by asking the obvious.
what is the internet doing to our brains? >> i think it is shifting the emphasis of our thoughts away from deep, a tentative thoughts, reflective thoughts, and more toward a scheming type of behavior, -- skimming type of behavior. we are losing the ability to slow down and think deeply about one thing for a long time. >> does that equate to a dumbing down of society, or is that an over read? >> i think of it more as a shift. i think what we do lose is our religious thinking and some of the richest parts of our intellectual lives. on the other hand, we gain access to information. it makes it much easier to communicate and send messages, but i think in that and what we stand to lose maybe greater than
what we are gaining. tavis: tell me about the data that allows you to make the point you have just made. >> there have been a lot of studies about how different aspects of our online life influence are thinking. studies of hyperlinks, studies of multimedia presentations, studies of interruptions, and we know the weather is great at interrupting us, and studies of multitasking, also something we do all the time on line. in the preponderance of evidence, it shows that we are -- our comprehension, our understanding, and are learning is weakened when we are juggling lots of task, when we are clicking links, as opposed to if we just focus on one thing for an extended time. tavis: how is research being done? to many of us are caught up on this? -- too many of us are caught in
this. how is research done on our brains? >> one is to do biological scans of brain activity. another is to do traditional psychological tests. there is a very interesting study of university students, where a class was split into two groups. when said was allowed to keep their laptops open during a lecture. -- one set was allowed to keep their laptops open during the election. they took a test over how well they had assimilated the information from the lecture, and the kids with laptops open did significantly worse than the people who actually paid attention, so there are all kinds of different studies, and all of them provide us with hints. i do not think there is one study that explains everything. you have to look across the whole lot of research. >> it almost seems given the direction we're heading in that it is pretty impossible to
arrest this development. >> one of the big challenges is it is no longer just a matter of personal choice. it is no longer a matter of, should i close my laptop for my cellphone? the expectation that we are always processing messages is being built into our employment lives. it is being built into our social lives. if all your friends are arranging their social activities through twitter or through tax thing, it becomes a big challenge to back away, -- or through tax thing, -- texting, it becomes a big challenge to back away. we have to stop this trend. >> why can it be about personal choice? why can those of us that are aware about what the data says decide to do something differently? that is to say, to not spend as much time on the internet, to not spend as much time on our blackberries, to not spend as much time in front of the
television, to demand we have appreciation and embrace of quiet space and quiet time. why can it be a personal choice? we do not have to go along, do we? tavis: you are absolutely right, and i agree that while there are a lot of social and economic pressures to stay connected, in the end, we do control our own behavior, and it might involve some sacrifices. it might mean staying out of touch with important people for a little while, staying out of the flow of information, but i think you are right. if we value the respective ways of thinking, then we have to make time for those in our lives and make sure our kids have time in their lives as well. tavis: i am curious as to what you think is a does to us long term. -- what you think this does to
as long term. even agreed researcher knows that once you do the research, you have to wrestle with it. you have to marinate on it. if we are not wrestling with data or information, long term, how do we benefit from it? >> that is a good question. i think as a society, we seem to be moving from the definition of intelligence that once looked at the gathering stage where we find information but also put a lot of stress on thinking deeply about the information we found, and we are moving from something that puts all the stress on gathering information and making sure we are bombarded by information, and we are losing that focus on deep thinking about one thing. unfortunately, i think the ability to tune out distractions and focus on one thing really underpins the richness of not
only our intellectual lives but the distinctiveness of ourselves. i think we become less interesting as individuals if all we are doing is gathering information and moving around the web, and i think you could also argue that our entire culture has been built on the work of people, whether in science, the arts, whatever, who had the ability to pay attention, who could back away from the flow and think about one thing, so i worry we are beginning to erode the foundations of culture. >> worrying about it is one thing. should we be scared about it? should we be on edge about it? >> i think so, and one of my hopes for the book is to raise awareness that what we stand to lose could be some very important things, because i think for most of society, this is not even seen as a problem. we are so bedazzled by our new
gadgets, are new ways of communicating, and they are powerful and very useful, but we are so seduced by them that we are not even taking a hard look at the different kinds of thinking that might be lost in this process. >> if your point is correct that multitasking hampers our ability to think deeply, take me inside of corporate america and helped me understand how long it is going to be for them to figure it out. if we are trying to regain our place as the leading manufacturer, if we want to regain our number one position in so many areas of interest that we have lost the distinction in, we live in a culture where the marketplace, corporate america, so values multitasking, so if multitasking hampers our ability to think deeply, and without thinking deeply, we are not going to get back in the game,
where is this going to end up? >> unfortunately, i think you will see a long-term erosion in the really brilliant ideas. i think there's a lot to be said for multitasking, for being in cotant connection with your colleagues, and it can increase your productivity to an extent, but i think if we are thinking about the really dramatic innovations that can build new industries and can open up whole new ranges of jobs, you have to be concerned if corporate america is putting all the stress of being connected all the time, on multitasking, and not realizing that workers really need to be given some time to think, and sometimes not be connected to everyone else. >> let me flip it here by asking whether or not be on the fact that we get exposed to more information, what is the good about what the internet is doing to our brains? >> there are certainly studies
it shows some mental aspects are getting strengthened. for instance, our ability to shift our focus among different stimuli, different bits of information. there is indication of our ability to spot patterns in a raise of data gets better as we spend more time on line. there are certainly benefits, and i am certainly not suggesting that we unplugged the internet or that we lose our ability to access the vast database. it is a matter of balance and trying to get the best of the new technology but also realizing there are older, more traditional ways of interacting that are also very important. >> i am laughing at your last point. if we truly unplugged the internet, this would not have been possible to night. >> i am glad we did not.
tavis: i am glad we did not either so we could get this information. nicklaus, thanks. up next, you need missing trio from north carolina who call themselves the carolina chocolate drops and a performance. stay with us. -- the unique trio from north carolina who call themselves the carolina chocolate drops and a performance. they have released one of the most talked-about cds of the year. i will let them explain that in a moment. in a few moments, they will perform a song, but first, they are performing "mountain dew." >> ♪
>> the black beverly hillbillies. >> it has already been called the ebony hillbillies of new york city. tavis: there is a band called that? i was just trying to be cute. i have no idea. glad to have you here. let's start with this cd. the name, caroline a chocolate drops. how did you come up with a name? >> the name came from an older group set recorded in the late 1920's -- an older group that recorded in the late 1920's, and they had a guy that went by the name of louie bluee.
they made a film, and i got a copy of it, and i showed it to them, and we really liked it and what he did, and i think she said, we should call ourselves the carolina chocolate drops in said. that is about it. tavis: we have the name of the cd. genuine negro jig. explain that. >> it is a tune we picked up that was written down in the late 1800's by a man attributed with writing "dixie." there is more of a story, because he lives down the street from a black string band family, and through the course of meeting different people and historians and different things -- i am not being very coherent, but he most likely would have gotten that tune from that black string band family,
and not only that tune, but possibly the code created dixie as well. it is just a lot to american musical history, and that embodies it. >> there is a town in mount vernon, where he was from, and he celebrated. the eldest sons have the epitaph that they taught dixie, so there is an instinct that goes on with that. >> i am curious as to each of your, how you came to love this.
take you back a couple weeks. tell me how you got turned on to this kind of music. >> i grew up in north carolina. i did not start playing this type of music until i was in college. as i have gotten older, i realized i really did miss a lot of that stuff. getavis: one would think there s absolutely no comparison. they are totally disparate sounds -- classical and what you do. are there any parallels? how did you get from classical? >> i started playing classical music when i was 13 or 14 -- i stopped playing classical music
when i was 13 or 14, because i was tired of playing it. tavis: you were playing what? the most important was the freedom you could have. can you sort of put your own personal spin on it. >> you take some risk. tell me the story about how you came to fall in love with this. >> i grew up about two hours of the road from him, and i heard a lot of of -- a lot of country and bluegrass. i heard a little bit of
everything, and i actually went off to do opera in college and burned out on it. i came home and started dancing. they are different things. that came through dancing. we started wanting to do every facet of the music. tavis: you go from yo-yo mama to opera to this. what is your back story? >> in terms of playing in this stuff, my dad comes from flagstaff, and i am from phoenix, arizona. when my mom first met my dad, he was the only black guy playing
the country songs. they listen to everything. that was early on. i played drums in the schools. when i was about 16, i picked up the guitar. a lot of singer-songwriter send stuff like that. i got into little rock and roll. that was the beatles and muddy waters, and then i got into slam poetry, so i did that for a while, and i got into the older stuff. i got into blind lemon jefferson and steve james and hank williams, jr., kenny rogers, and all that. i was playing the stock as i went along. -- i was playing the stuff as i went along. i started playing the banjo. >> it also is fascinating to read -- fascinating to me that
people do not know the venture was a creation. >> and it came from west africa. it is one of those things where we do not know which is which. it came over from africa with slaves, and it was developed into the banjo when it hit american soil. >> the amazing thing is we consider it as a white instrument, and for the first long time it was in the country, it was considered a black instrument. it is interesting there has been such a shift. >> what do your audiences look like? >> they are mostly white. that is because folk music was not formed by black people. a black audience does not naturally turn to folk music
unless you are naturally in -- unless you are interested in it. it is either that or the performers are black. tavis: are you ok with that, or would you like to see that change? >> we always strive for that. we love to play for whoever wants to come to our show. we want to expose more of the black community to what we do, because we think it is so important, because it is such a huge part of our music and our history. you cannot have the history without all this music in it. there is so much in there. >> so much of it is transmitted through the music. you learn tons about the culture from that. we are striving for more history. >> tell me about it. >> it was produced by a fellow
here in l.a. named joe henry who has a lot of great records. that came out earlier this year in february, so we're pretty proud of it. it is our first big studio release. >> to celebrate the first big studio release, they are the carolina chocolate drops, and we are fortunate they are going to play something for us. we are going to make it work. up next, a special performance. stay right there. as we close out the show, here are the carolina chocolate drops performing. enjoy. good night from l.a., and keep the faith. ♪
james, and he needs help with his reading. >> i am james. >> to everyone helping make a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance is proud to join in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to empowerment one step at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ thank you. ♪